Archived Story

Tracking cities’ financial health

Published 3:27pm Thursday, March 15, 2012

HARPERSVILLE

For the city of Harpersville, new businesses are opening their doors and existing business are expanding, according to Mayor Theoangelo Perkins.

Sales taxes and ad velorem taxes are among the top providers of the city’s income. Sales tax makes up 45 percent of the Harpersville budget.

“We do have a new screen printing business and TMH Lifts are expanding and doing well,” he said.

According to Perkins, the city is in the black.

“Over the last six to seven months we’ve really had to make cuts and really adjust,” Perkins said. “At first, we started to use some reserves hoping that it would be over, but we had to cut back on operations before they ate up our reserves.”

According to Perkins, the city normally keeps a year worth of operating expenses in reserves and they are currently down to six months.

“Things are up compared to last year, but it’s nothing to smile about,” Perkins said.

The city had to make adjustments by laying off two firemen. Two positions will not be renewed at the police department for the next quarter.

HELENA

Over the past few years, Helena officials have been putting a lot of thought into what they purchase for the city and how essential a position is after someone retires.

“We have been trying to cut back on anything we don’t have a big need for,” said Helena City Clerk Amanda Traywick. “We’ve tried to keep from purchasing any vehicles, and we’ve done what we can with what we’ve got now.

“We don’t just go out and buy something without really thinking about it,” Traywick said.

Like many cities, Helena’s sales tax revenue stream took a hit when the nation’s economy tanked several years ago. But because sales and use taxes only make up about 30 percent of the city’s annual budget, Helena has fared better than many surrounding cities.

In the 2005-2006 fiscal year, the city projected a total of about $5.4 million in revenues. This year, the city projected about $6.3 million in total revenues, only $2 million of which were sales and use taxes. Other major sources of revenue for the city are garbage fees, franchise fees paid to the city by utility companies and ad valorem property taxes.

Over the same time period, the city’s expenses have also increased. During the 2005-2006 budget year, the city projected about $5.1 million in expenses, compared to about $6.3 million this year.

Traywick said vehicle repair and fuel costs have risen over the past several years, which has driven the majority of the city’s expense increases since 2005.

Helena Mayor Sonny Penhale said he has seen the city’s sales tax revenues increase over the past several months.

As the economy improves, Penhale said he would like to fill the city’s vacant businesses, finish constructing a walking trail along Buck Creek and work to build a northern bypass road around the city.

In next week’s paper, look for stories about the financial health of Hoover, Indian Springs, Montevallo, Pelham, Vincent, Westover, Wilton and Wilsonville.

Christine Boatwright, Amy Jones, Nicole Loggins and Neal Wagner all contributed to this report.

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